Uma Thurman shares her private abortion heartbreak in response to new Texas law
Actress Uma Thurman penned a searingly honest letter in response to the new abortion laws that were recently introduced in Texas, admitting to having previously had an abortion herself.
In a major blow to women’s rights over in the US, Texas introduced a new abortion law earlier this year. Amongst one of the country’s strictest abortion laws to date, it bans abortion from as early as six weeks with no exceptions for cases involving rape or incest.
Also allowing private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone else who helps a woman obtain an abortion, the new legislation has been met with widespread fury from people all around the world – even prompting actress Uma Thurman to share her own story.
Writing a heartbreaking op-ed for The Washington Post in response to the news, the actress confessed that she had an abortion as a teenager, something she described as being “her darkest secret”.
“I have followed the course of Texas’s radical antiabortion law with great sadness, and something akin to horror,” the letter begins. “Now, in the hope of drawing the flames of controversy away from the vulnerable women on whom this law will have an immediate effect, I am sharing my own experience. You might not be interested in the opinions of an actress, but given this new outrage, I feel it is my responsibility to stand up in their shoes.”
Starting her acting career at just 15-years-old, Uma found herself working in an industry where she was often the “only kid in the room”. Forced to grow up much more quickly than her peers, her job soon led her out of America but her teenage years were much more traumatic than anyone ever knew.
“In my late teens, I was accidentally impregnated by a much older man. I was living out of a suitcase in Europe, far from my family, and about to start a job. I struggled to figure out what to do. I wanted to keep the baby, but how?
“I telephoned home. My mother was gravely ill in the hospital. My father went to her bedside to discuss my options. We had never spoken about sex before; this was the first time, and it was terrible for all of us,” she continued.
Realising that she didn’t have the means to provide a stable home for herself, let alone a child, the Pulp Fiction star said that her parents helped her come to a decision on what she should do. “We decided as a family that I couldn’t go through with the pregnancy, and agreed that termination was the right choice. My heart was broken nonetheless.”
“An older female friend in Germany offered to help me. In her doctor’s office in Cologne, I was given a local anesthetic and had an abortion. I lay awake on the table while the doctor, who was a kind man, explained every step of the process as it happened. It hurt terribly, but I didn’t complain. I had internalized so much shame that I felt I deserved the pain.
“My fingers were tightly locked across my chest, and when the procedure was done the doctor looked down at me and said, ‘You have beautiful hands – you remind me of my daughter’. That single gesture of humanity is seared in my mind as one of the most compassionate moments I have ever experienced. In his eyes, I was a person, I was a daughter, I was still a girl,” Thurman recalled.
Still haunted by the pain of her story, the Boston native told readers that it has been her “darkest secret until now”. Now 51-years-old and a mum of three beautiful children, she’s had an extraordinary life thus far, but it hasn’t been without heartbreak, challenge, loss or fear.
“I conceived my beautiful, magical children with men whom I loved and trusted enough to dare to bring a child into this world. I have no regrets for the path I have travelled. I applaud and support women who make a different choice,” Thurman wrote. “The abortion I had as a teenager was the hardest decision of my life, one that caused me anguish then and that saddens me even now, but it was the path to the life full of joy and love that I have experienced.
“Choosing not to keep that early pregnancy allowed me to grow up and become the mother I wanted and needed to be,” she noted.
Finding the light
What prompted her to share her story, you might ask? As she herself points out, she has nothing to gain from this disclosure, and perhaps much to lose. But there are women out there who need to know they’re not alone, and Thurman wants to reassure them of that. “In revealing the hole that this decision carved in me, I hope that some light will shine through, reaching women and girls who might feel a shame that they can’t protect themselves from and have no agency over. I can assure you that no one finds herself on that table on purpose.”
The recent Texas abortion law is another motivating factor behind the letter. Allowed to take effect without much argument from the Supreme Court, Thurman echoed what many others have already said, describing it as “a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women”. “This law is yet another discriminatory tool against those who are economically disadvantaged, and often, indeed, against their partners. Women and children of wealthy families retain all the choices in the world, and face little risk.”
Grief-stricken at how the new legislation “pits citizen against citizen”, she believes that it does nothing but create “new vigilantes who will prey” on the vulnerable; denying disadvantaged women the choice not to have children they are not equipped to care for, and extinguishing their hopes for the future family they might choose.
Finishing by speaking directly to all the women and girls of Texas and the wider world, Thurman ended her letter with the same line that once brought her comfort in her own time of need, “I see you. Have courage. You are beautiful. You remind me of my daughters.”